Tag Archives: No Child Left Behind

Are waivers to ‘No Child Left Behind’ providing accountability

28 Jul

All Politics is Local.

Thomas P. O’Neill

Moi would like to modify that quote a bit to all education is local and occurs at the neighborhood school. We really should not be imposing a straight jacket on education by using a one-size-fits-all approach. Every school, in fact, every classroom is its own little microclimate. We should be looking at strategies which work with a given population of children.

A Healthy Child In A Healthy Family Who Attends A Healthy School In A Healthy Neighborhood. ©

Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times article, States With Education Waivers Offer Varied Goals:

A report being issued on Friday by the liberal Center for American Progress shows that while some states have proposed reforms aimed at spurring schools and teachers to improve student performance, others may be introducing weaker measures of accountability.

The increased flexibility of the waivers means that some states will experiment and move ahead,” said Jeremy Ayers, associate director of federal education programs at the organization, “while others may backtrack.”

The No Child Left Behind law has been up for reauthorization since 2007, but so far Congress has failed to pass a new version. The Obama administration has granted waivers to 32 states and the District of Columbia, freeing them from some of the most burdensome provisions of the law, including the requirement that all students must be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

The waivers allow states to select from a menu of new goals. According to the center’s report, eight states have chosen to cut in half the percentage of students not testing at grade level in reading or math within six years, while one state, Arizona, said it would make all its students proficient by 2020. The majority of states chose to set their own goals.

In reviewing those states’ waiver applications, the report’s authors wrote that it was difficult to discern if those states “meet the high bar” of setting rigorous targets.

The report also found that many states had not outlined how they would hold schools responsible for actually meeting their goals…. 

In reviewing the state waiver applications, the center found that 14 states plan to use growth in student test scores for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Teachers unions and state education officials have fought over how much weight to accord to student test scores. In New York, the two sides battled for more than two years before settling on a system earlier this year that would base 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student achievement measures.

Given the controversy, education advocates fear that the new teacher evaluation systems could be pushed too quickly.

If there is too much sloppy implementation,” said Amy Wilkins, vice president of the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that supports using test scores as part of a teacher’s rating, “it will lose credibility and it will be very hard to get back that credibility.”

The Center for American Progress also reviewed how often states would identify their lowest performing schools. Very few states committed to reviewing the lowest 5 percent of schools every year, and the vast majority of the states did not specify how frequently they would do so….http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/education/varied-plans-for-states-with-waivers-no-child-law.html?_r=1&src=rechp

See, States Granted NCLB Waivers Offer Varying Goals For Helping Education Reform, According To Report http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/report-examines-goals-of-_n_1711111.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

The Center for American Progress analyzed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) waivers in the report, No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications:

Ours is not an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis. The Department of Education has already reviewed applications in detail and made judgments on the merits of each. We took a qualitative look across all applications to see what states are doing and to bring attention to interesting or innovative ideas. A few findings
emerged from this review:
• Most states have changed and would change their policies and practices significantly from those under No Child Left Behind. Change has come as a result of various motivations and has led to some improvements and deliberate shifts in policy, several of which are captured by the waiver applications.
• The waiver process itself did not appear to stimulate new innovations aside from accountability, but was an opportunity to articulate a new vision for reform. A number of changes in each state are already underway and in various stages of implementation, but the application process prodded states to articulate a comprehensive plan for improving education.
• States have proposed interesting and promising ideas in each principle area. Some states are pushing new ideas, many of which are promising or innovative, by ensuring all students graduate college and career ready, developing differentiated accountability systems, and improving teacher and leader effectiveness.
• Very few states proposed detailed plans for reducing duplication and unnecessary administrative burden on districts and schools. The goal of the federal flexibility package is to offer needed relief to states; states could benefit from doing the same for their districts and schools.
• Very few states detailed how they would use their 21st Century Community Learning Center funding to increase learning time. About half the states rejected the opportunity for additional federal funding to lengthen the school day, week, or year and those that indicated that they would accept the funding offered little detail on how they would utilize the extra dollars.
• States are using various sources of funding to implement their plans. States do not receive new money under the waivers. As a result states demonstrated a willingness to pursue new reform without additional funding.
In the pages that follow, we outline themes across state applications in the major priorities laid out by the Department of Education—college- and career-ready standards, differentiated accountability systems, and supporting effective instruction and leadership. The fourth principle, reducing duplication and burden,
received scant attention in state applications, and as such is not covered in detail in this report. Our report concludes with recommendations for states and the Department of Education, summarized below.
1. States should be treated as laboratories of reform that set the stage for eventual reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Both successes and failures of waiver reforms can and should inform how the act is reauthorized.
2. The Department of Education should ask for, and states should offer, more detail on aspects of state plans. We call on states to provide better, clearer information on how they will ensure students have equitable access to effective teachers; how their school rating system is linked to their annual goals; how they will ensure districts and schools engage in comprehensive approaches to school turnaround; how they will increase learning time; and how they will reduce duplication and administrative burden on districts and schools.
3. The Department of Education should establish a clearinghouse to document and share tools, strategies, and lessons of implementation. In this way states and districts can learn from the successes and challenges faced and overcome by other states and districts.
4. States should learn from other states, either by joining consortia or replicating successful practices. States should consider forming partnerships or consortia with other states to build infrastructure as a group, as opposed to taking on an entire reform alone.
5. The Department of Education should increase its staffing and capacity to oversee and enforce implementation of waiver plans. The sheer variety and complexity of state plans, compared to No Child Left Behind, means the department will need to build capacity to ensure states turn their plans into reality.
6. States should implement their plans as part of a coherent strategy—with clear goals, mid-course corrections, and consequences for failure to make progress. Any of the innovations discussed in this report will fade quickly if they are not implemented with fidelity and persistence as part of a coherent approach to improving the K-12 education system.

No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications
Jeremy Ayers and Isabel Owen July 2012
with Glenda Partee and Theodora Chanhttp://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/07/pdf/nochildwaivers.pdf

NCLB was an attempt to introduce accountability in education using a top down approach of federal mandate on what has traditionally been a local subject, management of schools.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line
Russian mystic & novelist (1828 – 1910)

So it is with schools. There are certain elements that successful schools share. The Wisconsin Department of Education has a good guide about successful schools.  Chapter One, Characteristics of Successful Schools , lists key elements:

Chapter 1 describes the seven characteristics that comprise a successful school. Briefly, they are:

Vision: having a common understanding of goals, principles and expectations for everyone in the learning-community

Leadership: having a group of individuals dedicated to helping the learning-community reach its vision

High Academic Standards: describing what students need to know and be able to do

Standards of the Heart: helping all within the learning community become caring, contributing, productive, and responsible citizens

Family School and Community Partnerships: “making room at the table” for a child’s first and most influential teachers

Professional Development: providing consistent, meaningful opportunities for adults in the school setting to engage in continuous learning

Evidence of Success: collecting and analyzing data about students, programs, and staff

Like, unhappy families, failing schools are probably failing in their own way. Waivers are really just returning local control back to schools. It seems everything old becomes new once again, although a relentless focus on the basics never went out of style. As the Center for American Progress argues in the conclusion to No Child Left Behind Waivers: Promising Ideas from Second Round Applications, it is incumbent to make sure that states granted waivers are monitored to ensure there is accountability to make sure children in failing schools do not fall through the cracks.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

What , if anything, do education tests mean?

27 Nov

Moi received a review copy from Princeton University Press of Howard Wainer’s Uneducated Guesses. The publication date was September 14, 2011. In the preface Wainer states the goal of the book, “It deals with education in general and the use of tests and test scores in support of educational goals in particular.” Wainer tries to avoid not only the policy, but the ethical analysis of the analysis of the improper use of tests and test results by tightly defining the objective of the book at page four. The policy implications of using tests and test results to not only decide the direction of education, but to decide what happens to the participants in education are huge. Moi wonders if Wainer was really trying to avoid the unavoidable?

For moi, the real meat of the book comes in chapter 4. Wainer says:

In chapter 3 we learned that the PSAT, the shorter and easier version of the SAT, can be used effectively as one part of the selection decision for scholarships. In this chapter we expand on this discussion to illustrate that the PSAT also provides evidence that can help us allocate scarce educational resources…. [Emphasis Added]

Wainer examines the connection by analyzing and comparing test results from three high school districts. Those schools are Garfield High School in L.A., the site of the movie “Stand and Deliver.” La Canada High School in an upscale L.A. Suburb and Detroit, a very poor inner city school district. The really scary policy implication of Wainer’s very thorough analysis is found at page 44, “Limited resources mean that choices must be made.” Table 4-4 illustrates that real life choices are being made by districts like Detroit. What is really scary is that these choices affect the lives of real human beings. Of course, Wainer is simply the messenger and can’t be faulted for his analysis. According to Wainer, it is very tricky to use test results in predicting school performance and his discussion at page 53 summarizes his conclusions.

Perhaps the most chilling part of Wainer’s book is chapter 8 which deals with how testing and test results can adversely impact the career of a teacher when so-called “experts” incorrectly analyze test data. It should be required reading for those who want to evaluate teacher performance based upon test results.

Overall, Uneducated Guesses is a good, solid, and surprisingly readable book about test design, test results, and the use of test results. The truly scary part of the book describes how the uninformed, unknowing, and possibly venal can use what they perceive to be the correct interpretation to make policy judgments which result in horrific societal consequences.

Wainer makes statistics as readable as possible, because really folks, it is still statistics.

Here is the full citation for the book:

Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies

Howard Wainer

Cloth: $24.95 ISBN: 9780691149288


Wainer’s book will come in handy when reading Eric A. Hanushek’s analysis of a National Research Council report.

Joy Resmovits writes about Eric A. Hanushek’s analysis of a National Research Council report in the Huffington Post article, Stanford Economist Rebuts Much-Cited Report That Debunks Test-Based Education:

When the National Research Council published the results of a decade-long study on the effects of standardized testing on student learning this summer, critics who have long opposed the use of exams as a teaching incentive rejoiced.

But Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University economist who is influential in education research, now says the “told you so” knee-jerk reaction was unwarranted: In an article released Monday by Harvard University’s journal Education Next, Hanushek argues that the report misrepresents its own findings, unjustifiably amplifying the perspective of those who don’t believe in testing. His article has even caused some authors of the NRC report to express concerns with its conclusions….

According to Hanushek’s analysis, the panel’s thorough examination of multiple studies is not evident in its conclusions.

“Instead of weighing the full evidence before it in the neutral manner expected of an NRC committee, the panel selectively uses available evidence and then twists it into bizarre, one might say biased, conclusions,” Hanushek wrote.

The anti-testing bias, he says, comes from the fact that “nobody in the schools wants people looking over their shoulders.”

Hanushek, an economist, claims that the .08 standard deviation increase in student learning is not as insignificant as the report makes it sound. According to his calculations, the benefits of such gains outweigh the costs: that amount of learning, he claims, translates to a value of $14 trillion. He notes that if testing is expanded at the expense of $100 per student, the rate of return on that investment is 9,189 percent. Hanushek criticized the report for not giving enough attention to the benefits NCLB provided disadvantaged students.

The report, Hanushek said, hid that evidence.

“They had that in their report, but it’s buried behind a line of discussion that’s led everybody who’s ever read it to conclude that test-based accountability is a bad idea,” he said. Hanushek reacted strongly, he said, because of the “complacency of many policymakers” who say education should be improved but that there are no effective options.



Grinding the Antitesting Ax: More bias than evidence behind NRC panel’s conclusions
Eric A. Hanushek,Education Next, WINTER 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 2

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education: A report from the National Research Council Checked by Eric A. Hanushek


One of the reasons why Hanushek’s critique is so important, aside from the implications that testing has under No Child Left Behind, is the push to use student test results in teacher evaluation. Valerie Strauss has an article in the Washington Post about a study which questions the use of student testing in the teacher evaluation process and the article includes links to the full report. In Study Blast Popular Teacher Evaluation Method Strauss reports:

Student standardized test scores are not reliable indicators of how effective any teacher is in the classroom, not even with the addition of new “value-added” methods, according to a study released today. It calls on policymakers and educators to stop using test scores as a central factor in holding teachers accountable.

Value-added modeling” is indeed all the rage in teacher evaluation: The Obama administration supports it, and the Los Angles Times used it to grade more than 6,000 California teachers in a controversial project. States are changing laws in order to make standardized tests an important part of teacher evaluation.

Unfortunately, this rush is being done without evidence that it works well. The study, by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit think tank based in Washington, concludes that heavy reliance on VAM methods should not dominate high-stakes decisions about teacher evaluation and pay.

Here is the report link

Sarah Garland of the Hechinger Report has written the article, Should value-added teacher ratings be adjusted for poverty?

In Washington, D.C., one of the first places in the country to use value-added teacher ratings to fire teachers, teacher-union president Nathan Saunders likes to point to the following statistic as proof that the ratings are flawed: Ward 8, one of the poorest areas of the city, has only 5 percent of the teachers defined as effective under the new evaluation system known as IMPACT, but more than a quarter of the ineffective ones. Ward 3, encompassing some of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, has nearly a quarter of the best teachers, but only 8 percent of the worst.

The discrepancy highlights an ongoing debate about the value-added test scores that an increasing number of states—soon to include Florida—are using to evaluate teachers. Are the best, most experienced D.C. teachers concentrated in the wealthiest schools, while the worst are concentrated in the poorest schools? Or does the statistical model ignore the possibility that it’s more difficult to teach a roomfull of impoverished children?

Saunders thinks it’s harder for teachers in high-poverty schools. “The fact that kids show up to school hungry and distracted and they have no eyeglasses and can’t see the board, it doesn’t even acknowledge that,” he said.


The question is what do test results mean and more importantly, how are test scores to be used? Wainer’s book attempts to analyze these questions.


Should value-added teacher ratings be adjusted for poverty?

Sarah Garland, The Hechinger Report, November 22, 2011


Every population of kids is different and they arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Schools and teachers must be accountable, but there should be various measures of judging teacher effectiveness for a particular population of children. Perhaps, more time and effort should be spent in developing a strong principal corps and giving principals the training and assistance in evaluation and mentoring techniques. There should be evaluation measures which look at where children are on the learning continuum and design a program to address that child’s needs.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act balancing act

30 Oct

Schools all over the country are challenged by students who are violent, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times staff reporter reports in the Seattle Times article, Student-privacy laws complicate schools’ ability to prevent attacks which was about an unprovoked assault in a high school restroom which almost killed two students.

Five months before she allegedly attacked two schoolmates with a knife, nearly killing one, a Snohomish High School student underwent counseling after she threatened to kill another student’s boyfriend.

The 15-year-old Snohomish girl was allowed to return to school only after she presented proof she had attended counseling.

The earlier threats would have never been made public if the information wasn’t contained in court documents charging the girl with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in last Monday’s attack.

Some Snohomish parents were surprised to learn of the earlier threat and have expressed concern that they weren’t notified.

But student information, including mental-health records, is tightly held by school districts because of federal privacy laws. The district says it cannot even discuss whether counselors or teachers were made aware of the earlier threats because of privacy laws.

The case underscores the delicate and complicated balancing act faced by schools in their efforts to meet the educational and privacy rights of individual students, as well as their need to ensure the safety of the larger student body.


There is a complex intertwining of laws which often prevent school officials from disclosing much about students.

According to Fact Sheet 29: Privacy in Education: Guide for Parents and Adult-Age Students,Revised September 2010 the major laws governing disclosure about student records are:

What are the major federal laws that govern the privacy of education records?

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 USC 1232g (1974)
  • Protection of Pupil’s Rights Amendments (PPRA) 20 USC 1232h (1978)
  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-110, 115 STAT. 1425 (January 2002)
  • USA Patriot Act, P.L. 107-56 (October 26, 2001)
  • Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC Part I, Ch. 5, Subch. 11, Sec. 552
  • Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (Pub. L. 106-386)

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act….


The key provisions of FERPA are:

FERPA is the best known and most influential of the laws governing student privacy. Oversight and enforcement of FERPA rests with the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA has recently undergone some changes since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and the USA Patriot Act, discussed below.

What are the most important things to know about FERPA?

FERPA gives parents and adult-age students some rights to the privacy of the student education record. Under FERPA, adult-age students are those who have reached the age of 18 or who attend post-secondary school, even though not yet 18 years of age. For example, a 17-year-old who is enrolled in college would be considered “adult-age.”

The law provides:

  • The right of parents and adult-age students to inspect and receive a copy of student records.
  • The right to deny access to others, specifically those outside the school system, with some exceptions.
  • A process to correct errors, including a hearing.
  • The right to opt-out of military recruitment.
  • The right to opt-out of the disclosure of a student’s directory information.
  • A complaint process, handled by the Family Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA has some significant shortcomings:

  • It does not give individuals the right to sue the school. Only the U.S. Department of Education can sanction schools that have violated FERPA.
  • It puts the burden on students and parents to respond to opt-out opportunities, such as disclosure of directory information.
  • It does not dictate requirements for safeguarding education records.

The Family Compliance Office (FPCO) oversees FERPA. For more information about this law and the mission of this Office, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html. As part of its oversight duties, FPCO has adopted regulations that supplement FERPA.

The agency’s core regulations as well as major amendments adopted in December 2008 can be found on the office’s Web site at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html. In addition, FPCO’s Web site provides guidance on various aspects of FERPA to students, parents, teachers and school administrators.

A key case describing the limitations of FERPA is The Chronicle of Higher Education vs. The United States, ELECTRONIC CITATION: 2002 FED App. 0213P (6th Cir.), UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT:

KARL S. FORESTER, District Judge. Intervening Defendant-Appellant The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The Chronicle“) contests the district court’s grant of summary judgment and subsequent permanent injunction in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee the United States. Specifically, the district court concluded that university disciplinary records were “educational records” as that term is defined in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, and that releasing such records and the personally identifiable information contained therein constitutes a violation of the FERPA. The district court permanently enjoined the Defendants-Appellees Miami University and The Ohio State University (“Miami,” “Ohio State,” or collectively “Universities”) from releasing student disciplinary records or any “personally identifiable information” contained therein, except as otherwise expressly permitted under the FERPA. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM. [Emphasis Added]

School districts have to balance the rights of students to an education with the need to know of other parties.

School Policies and Legal Issues Supporting Safe Schools by Thomas Hutton and Kirk Bailey from the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence put the issue of violence in schools in context and reviews the impact of federal regulation.

The discretion school officials have to disclose information about a student among themselves and to others is limited by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).51 Generally speaking, under FERPA personal information that is contained in a student’s education records may not be disclosed without the parent’s consent. When the student reaches the age of 18, his or her consent is required instead, except for disclosures to the parent as long as the student remains a dependent of the parent under the Internal Revenue Code.52

Education records” is construed very broadly to cover most school records concerning a student, but several of the exceptions to the nondisclosure rule apply in safety-related situations and are described below. A private individual has no right to sue over an alleged FERPA violation; rather, the remedy is an enforcement action by the federal government. IDEA also includes privacy protections related to students with disabilities and special education that largely parallel those in FERPA….


As the case in Snohomish County illustrates, sometimes the balance tips in favor of the troubled student to the detriment of everyone else.


FERPA General Guidance for Students


No Child Left Behind A Parents Guide


Dr. Wilda says this about that ©